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Winning weather for the British green

Winning weather for the British green

The Young Ones were actually recorded in a stone house in the Redland district of Bristol. Although today most of the academic staff live in slums, the area is still a popular home for students.

– Here it is, Cotrington Road. An expensive Audi is parked outside. But look, there's another poster from us at The Greens!

Election worker Kathy Merrall points out one of the windows of a large, beautiful apartment building on the corner of the street. It's the same building where The Young Ones were recorded 40 years ago. A lot has changed since then, but the city, and especially the alumni quarter, remains a system-important bastion.

Kathy Merrell joined the Green Party three years ago, concerned about climate change. Photo: Joachim Medin

“Most Progressive City”

In local elections in May this year, the Green Party emerged as the largest party in Bristol. At the national level, the party struggled to find its way, but here it won 34 of the 70 seats in the municipal council. Green Party leadership later clarified that residents could expect a “cultural change” at City Hall.

– We are probably the most progressive city in England today, says poll worker Alex Robinson. There will be many students. But people also vote green and red in more affluent middle-class areas. If a person votes conservatively, people will perceive it very differently.

Today's ETC joins Kathy Merrell and Alex Robinson as they spend an evening knocking on doors with other activists to attract more voters ahead of the July 4 election. They often end up in long conversations with people who normally vote Social Democratic Labor but are interested in the Greens.

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Alex Robinson
Alex Robinson visited the Green Party in Finland, where he was surprised no one knocked on voters' doors. “Polling booths are the least effective way to reach people.” Photo: Joachim Medin

It is a political footwork more common in Great Britain than in Sweden. Part of the Green Party's success can be explained by years of mobilizing party members and volunteers to do this work.

– Kathy and I are the door knocking coordinators responsible for different parts of the block. I've been doing this twice a week for over two years and handing out tons of flyers. People from other parts of the country have also come to help. We had a guy from Birmingham recently who was on the job for a whole week, says Alex Robinson.

Door knocker
The Green Party organizes its door-knockers through WhatsApp groups and has been canvassing voters at their homes for more than two years. Photo: Joachim Medin

To have a chance of entering parliament, the Greens are focusing on strategic wins in the Bristol Central constituency and three single member constituencies in the country. The door knockers are not trying to argue against the scenario that Britain's next government will be a Social Democrat. Everything points to Labor taking home an election victory, and they argue that such a government would be a little better if there were more Greens in parliament who could defend issues others did not raise.

A single Member of Parliament

Later in the evening, Dagens also meets Carla Tenier, a co-chair of ETC, the Green Party, who has a beer at the pub with everyone who knocked on the door. Carla Denier is running for Parliament herself and was a councilor in Bristol between 2015 and 2024. His stamp is visible: the city has street art about the importance of clean water and public bin campaigns against littering.

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For the past 14 years, Britain has had a Green MP, but local election victories have boosted growth hopes.

– We think we have a good chance because the politics in England have changed. We know our questions are very popular with voters. We are the only party currently calling for higher taxes on high earners, not just on climate but on tax policy. We are only demanding that private water companies come under public control, says Carla Denier.

Carla Denier
Party leader Carla Denier outside the tribal lodge. Photo: Joachim Medin

What voters have often told her in the past is that they sympathize with the Greens, but don't vote for the Greens because they think it's a lost vote. Britain's electoral system is based on one politician in each constituency, which culminates in Parliament, and this usually favors the largest and most prosperous parties.

Unlike their social democratic sister parties in Europe, Labor does not support a reformed system based on proportionality because they themselves benefit from the status quo.

– The problem is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when everyone tells themselves that we shouldn't vote. Our solution is to target certain constituencies that we already know are popular. This is the only way to defeat an unfair electoral system, says Carla Denier.

Green posters
The party has put up campaign posters in Bristol saying the Conservatives are “toast”, defeated and it's time for change. Photo: Joachim Medin

Is Bristol the future?

In Bristol Central, she is running against incumbent Labor MP Thangam Debonaire, who is close to party leader Keir Starmer and is favored to become the next culture minister. A high-ranking person confronts another high-ranking person. But the Greens believe they may have extra traction since Labour's apparent abandonment of the climate issue. It recently backtracked on a pledge to set aside £28 million for climate investment.

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– This sends a clear signal to all voters who think it's important to care about the climate, says Carla Denier, that voting Green is a good idea. They themselves raise this in their talks with the workers.

In Bristol, the Greens put up campaign posters saying the Conservatives “toast”, defeated, it's time for change. In Carla Denier's constituency, the Greens are more popular than the Conservatives among all under-40s. With half the population, in other words.

British left-wing journalist Owen Jones wrote in an article a few weeks ago that Bristol Central is not a political exception, but a window into what political reality will look like elsewhere in the country in a few years.

– I think what we have achieved here can be replicated in other parts of the country. When people see more Green MPs being elected in this election, it won't seem hopeless to vote for us too.